Look at Jerky Jane. She’s coasting & eating on the front of the paceline and everyone’s freaking stacking up behind her. Dufus up there keeps drifting to the left every time he reaches for a bottle. That dodgy dick needs to learn how to soft pedal and get off the brakes. Someone should tell that putz he doesn’t need to point and shout out every pebble in the road and just worry about the objects that could cause a problem. You want to say it. You’re chamois is in a bundle, but you don’t want to tip the testosterone test tube on a group ride. So you put up with it. Who’s the dufus now?
You. You Jerry are the dufus. (Seinfeld…when Elaine is running the catalog)
Bad bike habits left unchecked never change. In fact, they get more ingrained with time. It’s like The Blob, you gotta stop it now or it’ll overrun your group ride and vaporize everyone. Don’t be a dufus. You must stop the blob.
You could take the Devil approach, ride up next to the squirrel in question and say something like, “hey AD-Dufus stop looking at the cows and flowers and old barns and freaking on every crack in the road and toying with your computer and focus on something else like, I don’t know, how about maybe riding your bike in a straight line!” Unfortunately, that’ll get you an FU real quick.
Recently I gave a few tips to someone who committed a few group ride/pace line sins. They didn’t say FU. The response I got back was this, and I quote, “The words of advice are much appreciated.”
That’s quite a departure from an FU. How did I do it? I put ‘em in a figure-four leg lock and gave them cauliflower ears till they gave in. Really, I just took the Angel approach, waited till the right moment, kept it private and gave them constructive advice. For me, it was someone I knew fairly well, so I sent an email a day after the ride:
I don't know if someone mentioned something to ya or not, but yesterday I noticed to that you tend to slightly speed up and slow down in the paceline. I'm sure you'd rather hear it from a buddy than getting hollered at by some jerk wad. So here's a one word tip for riding in the paceline. SMOOTH. Don't make any abrupt changes in speed. The person behind you is just inches from your wheel. If they touch your wheel and/or crash, they're going to blame you. Try to anticipate changes in the paceline’s speed. Keep your eyes ahead for little hills, obstacles, corners etc. Keep pedaling and take it easy on the brakes. Stay just slightly to one side of the wheel in front of you. That way, if the person in front of you slows down a bit, you can soft pedal and have room to react rather than touching the brakes or stop pedaling, which causes a chain reaction with the person behind you.
I waited till the day after, but the right moment can be when the ride slows down to a chatty noodle, during a natural break, or after the ride when folks are packing up and saying their goodbyes. Trick is to do it privately. It’s cycling, not an episode of The View where the girls grill Octo-mom. There’s no reason to air the dirty laundry in front of the group or for anyone else on the ride to chime in. That’ll make the offender feel like they’re being teamed up on. Just wait for a chilled out moment. Keep it private & constructive.
Here’s some common offenses and how to listen to the Angel on your shoulder:
Offense: Jacking The Pace
Devil: Quit jacking the pace on the front of the group you jag.
Angel: Ya know the person in front of you is having a hard time latching back on to the back after their pull. If ya keep the pace steady when you get to the front, they’ll have an easier time getting back on. Plus we won’t end up dropping ‘em and waiting for ‘em later. They’re a little weaker, so maybe take a longer pull instead of going faster.
Offense: Over use of brakes in the paceline.
Devil: Hey man, lay off the brakes. Jesus! You ride like my Grandma.
Angel: You know it saves more energy and it’s more efficient to soft pedal when the pace lets up than to hit the brakes and then have to get back up to speed. Plus it gives the dude behind you more time to react to pace changes.
Offense: Eating or Drinking On The Front (my biggest pet peeve)
Devil: Hey man, what are you having a freakin’ picnic up there. A paceline is like a mullet. Work on the front. Party in the back.
Angel: Just to let ya know, it’s a little safer for the other riders to eat or drink when on the back on the group. Plus, it’ll keep the pace steadier.
Offense: Drifting and/or not holding their line
Devil: Hey boner, what are you sightseeing! Hold yer line!
Angel: (after figuring out why they’re drifting) Hey, I just noticed that every time you, (point out an obstacle, relax, take a drink, look to the left, scratch your nuts) you tend to drift to one side. It wasn’t that big a deal to me, but there’s a few other less experienced people out here that might not be able to react as quick and could end up touching wheels with ya.
Offense: Letting a gap go.
Devil: Close that shit up man!
Angel: Ya know, you’ll get a better draft, save more energy and the pace will be smoother if you get right up there within a few inches of that rear wheel and soft pedal to stay there. Maybe try to get within a foot and with time try to get even closer.